The Violet Hour Anthology

NICK CAVE - ON GRIEF

Cynthia, a fan from Vermont asks:

“I have experienced the death of my father, my sister, and my first love in the past few years and feel that I have some communication with them, mostly through dreams. They are helping me. Are you and Susie feeling that your son Arthur is with you and communicating in some way?”

Nick Cave responds:

Dear Cynthia,

This is a very beautiful question and I am grateful that you have asked it. It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.

I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.

With love, Nick.

Rainer Maria Rilke - To Claire Goll (The Dark Interval: Letters for the Grieving Heart)

Liliane,

Before writing this to you I had torn up another letter that I had written two nights ago, since I do not feel like telling you anything “general” at the moment when you demand my empathy and attention. And yet, tell me, how to find those particular words that will be valid exactly for you, since I have learned only via the abbreviated announcement of the type of affliction that now puts you in an immensely difficult test.

You see, I think that now, since you are confronted for the first time with having to suffer death in the death of the person who is so infinitely close to you, all of death (somehow more than only your own, possible death), that now is the moment when you are most capable of truly perceiving and recognising the pure secret which, believe me, is not that of death but of life.

Now it is necessary, in an unspeakably and inexhaustibly magnanimous gesture of pain, to include death in life, all of death, since through someone previous to you it has moved within your reach (and you have become related to it). Make it part of life as something no longer to be rejected, no longer denied. Pull it toward you with all your strength, this horrific thing, and as long as you cannot do that, pretend that you are comfortable and familiar with it. Don’t scare it off by being scared of it (like everyone else). Interact with it or, if that is still too much of an effort for you, at least hold still so that it can get very close, that always chased-off creature of death, and let it cuddle up to you. For this, you see, is what death has become for us: something always chased away that no longer had a chance of revealing itself to us. If at the moment when it hurts and devastates us, death were treated by even the simplest person with some familiarity (and not with horror), what confessions would it share when it - finally - passed over to him! Only a small moment of open-mindedness toward it, a brief suppression of prejudice, and it is ready to share infinite intimacies that would overwhelm our tendency to endure it with trembling hesitation. Patience Lilliane, nothing but: patience.

Once you have been granted access to the Whole and thus been initiated, you solemnly celebrate your own true independence. You become more protective and more capable of granting protections exactly to the extent that you have lost and now lack protection. The solitude into which you were cast so violently makes you capable of balancing out the loneliness of others to exactly the same degree. And as your own sense of difficulty is concerned, you will soon realise that is has posited a new measure for your existence and a new standard for your suffering and endurance.

I offer a bit of advice, Liliane; I am trying nothing more but to be close to you with these simple words. On some later occasion you will tell me whether they were of any use, for nobody comes close to true assistance and consolation, except by an act of grace.

Rilke

Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Michel Faber - Restraining Order (from Undying: A Love Story)

Unshaven, shabby and unwashed,
I haunt the place where we last slept
together, and refuse to leave.
Why no one calls the cops to move
me on, I do not understand.
Surely someone will lay a hand
on my clammy shoulder, and say
’Nothing more to see.’

In the beginning, all that love
was awfully romantic in its way,
but now the novelty's worn thin
and normalcy is overdue.
This loyalty to what’s dead and gone,
this clinging to what’s no longer
mine; its borderline obsessed.
Give it a rest.

A polite suggestion, buddy:
Give her some space. Steer clear
of where you think she ought to be,
She won’t be there. Instead, why not
give some thought to personal hygiene.
Adopt a healthier diet. Keep well-hydrated.
Find other topics of conversation.
Maybe join a group of folk like you,
to talk things through.
By all means take some time
to grieve, but don't let it become
excessive. Accept the situation:
you’ve lost her. Try not to be
possessive.

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